Friday, April 18, 2014

A Conversation with authors Gerald and Loretta Hausman, whose latest book is The Forbidden Ride

reprinted with permission from Stay Thirsty Media

Gerald and Loretta Hausman are an award-winning, bestselling husband and wife writing team with over 18 books to their joint credit. From mythology to biography, from cats to dogs to horses and from sagas to a book about pancakes, their books have been recognized by USA Today, The New York Public Library, the American Booksellers, Better Homes and Gardens, the Scholastic Book Club, the QBP Book of the Month Club and the Edgar Cayce Foundation, to name a few. The Hausmans have a distinguished career as master storytellers and their latest book, THE FORBIDDEN RIDE, is but one example of their magnetic writing style that draws the reader in from the first page to the last. THIRSTY was fortunate to visit with Gerald and Loretta at their home in Bokeelia, Florida.

THIRSTY: How did you become interested in Icelandic family sagas?

GERALD & LORETTA HAUSMAN: We've spent a lifetime working in mythology of various kinds, mostly American Indian and West Indian. But at one point when a publisher suggested we branch out some more, we began to study European mythology, especially Norse, and thus we wound up deep in the sagas and eventually were inspired to write a story which would use them in a kind of contemporary political crisis, such as the breaking of a law that needed to be changed.

THIRSTY: In your recently released book, THE FORBIDDEN RIDE, you tell a timeless Romeo and Juliet story of love between a 15-year-old-girl and a 17-year-old boy that is set in the harsh, unforgiving days of 10th century Iceland. What motivated you to write this book and to do it together?

GERALD HAUSMAN: We often work together even if I am doing the writing. Loretta always has something to say about the logic, coherence, and factuality of the tale. She's often the gravity that helps me pin the language down. This particular story of conditional and unconditional love was compelling to me because every family has something like this going on, but not in such extreme measures. In this case there is bloodshed and mayhem as a result of one simple, impulsive teenage action. The law comes down hard on them – and it's society's law, the Law of Settlement which is meant to hold things together but instead, in this tale, tears them apart.

LORETTA HAUSMAN: In looking for a story that would appeal to the YA [Young Adult] market, I found the enduring theme of this family feud plus the young people caught in an emotional trap of conflicting loyalties. The effect of the feud on the lives of everyone in the settlement and even the changing of the law is crucial to this story's timeless quality. It's, very simply, about now.

THIRSTY: Why do you think the history and mythology of Iceland holds such a strong attraction for the modern audience?

GERALD & LORETTA HAUSMAN: We are a litigious society, as were the ancient Icelanders who created one of our earliest world democracies. They managed to rule their country for over 200 years without a king. But as everyone knows now – and this is why the story holds true today – democracy is only as good as the people who run it and permit its freedoms to survive. It's easy for it to tilt – for elections to be bought and paid for, and that is why THE FORBIDDEN RIDE is so timely.

THIRSTY: It is most unusual for a husband and wife to co-author books and you have collaborated on over 18 very successful titles. How do you manage to work together so well?

GERALD HAUSMAN: Practice and patience. Love. Willingness to be wrong or misled and just plain driven. To work together you have to accept strengths and weaknesses and move on from there building trust and compassion, and eventually getting a good result from the collaboration. Two minds are better than one, and as an author I've not only collaborated with my favorite author, Loretta, but also with a dozen other writers including sci-fi fantasy master Roger Zelazny who, when we started out were just good acquaintances, but when we finished our novel called WILDERNESS, we were best friends.

LORETTA HAUSMAN: My strengths are the little details that authors – and Gerald is sometimes a good example of this – forget about in the excitement of telling the emotional drift of the story. This is why he's so good at telling the tale orally; he makes it scary or dreamy with his expressions of sudden emotion. But when he writes I am always there to say, "You left out the part about the dog. He was supposed to be in the yard, but you had him sleeping in the bedroom." Such seemingly modest mistakes add up and often spoil the symmetry of the whole. I love details because they bring a sharp-edged reality to the writing. In the end we complement one another because if I were to write alone, I might not have the emotional pitch he does. And usually when he writes by himself, he calls me in for a logic 101 lesson.

THIRSTY: Throughout your joint writing career, you have written about mythology and often focused on the myths surrounding certain animals like horses, dogs and cats. What is there that so fascinates us about the legends and lore of animals?
 GERALD & LORETTA HAUSMAN: We once counted up the numbers of dogs our two families had during the time we were kids and young adults and it came to over 35. Add to that a large number of cats, possums, raccoons, squirrels, ducks, tropical birds, reptiles and amphibians not to mention fish and you have a small ark. When you live with animals your entire life, you understand the fables of old, whether Aesop or American Indian, and you well understand why the animals talk and are often called "animal people." Most of us believe to a certain extent that animals are like us only different and it has come to the point where many people believe that some animals are smarter than we are. Doesn't this make for fun reading? The success of some of our animal books tells us that people enjoy being reassured that others think the way they do on this issue.

THIRSTY: You have jointly written several books with historical themes and settings that range from Josephine and Napoleon to Henry David Thoreau. What characteristics draw you to specific stories and how do you go about deciding on which stories to write?

 GERALD HAUSMAN:  Often publishers have suggested themes they would like us to explore. We both love history, modern and ancient. We both love culture, old and new. What it comes down to, though, is whether or not something could sell to readers at a certain time. Our book, ESCAPE FROM BOTANY BAY, seems to have been a story that people wanted to know more about, and in fact some Australians have written reviews where they wondered why such stories were not better known in their school system. That book is about the colonization of Australia and particularly the brave woman who escaped from bondage and prison life and traveled 3,000 miles in an open boat to escape. Her bravery, we felt, was historically unequaled. Record books told us that no woman had ever bested Mary Bryant's open boat voyage. She had no navigational equipment. In THE FORBIDDEN RIDE, we found another valorous woman who bested all the odds against her and won in the end. Such stories give us hope and faith in our continuance as a species.

LORETTA HAUSMAN: I love to read stories where the odds are totally against the hero or heroine, but somehow they accept the challenge because it's in their nature to do so. What is that nature, specifically? We, Gerald and I, work on bringing that daring and secret DNA to light. It's in his book with Roger, WILDERNESS, and it's in ESCAPE FROM BOTANY BAY and especially in THE FORBIDDEN RIDE. Somewhere I read an article by a librarian who wrote: "We need more stories where women triumph in unusually harsh environments."

THIRSTY: Do you think that the characters in THE FORBIDDEN RIDE will demand that you write a sequel?

GERALD HAUSMAN: YES. We have started the research on it.

LORETTA HAUSMAN: My favorite parts of THE FORBIDDEN RIDE are the ways in which Freyja, the heroine, communicates telepathically with Faxi, her beloved horse. The second book in the series would be an expansion of what happened in the first book. There are a lot of questions raised at the end of the novel. Someone has already asked about the quixotic figure of Ozur, the mercenary. Does he come back in Book Two? What about Bjarni, the man of vengeance? Does he find a way to revive the blood war? And then there's Faxi...does the great horse grow in powers unseen and unknown in Book One?

BALKIN BUDDIES: We look forward to the sequel to find out!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Marilyn Singer's A FULL MOON IS RISING is among ALSC's Notable Children's Recordings

At the Midwinter Meeting of the American Library Association (ALA) in Philadelphia this January, the Association for Library Service for Children (ALSC) released its picks for the best audio books of 2014. Those selected are intended for listeners 14 years of age and younger. We are pleased to announce that, among the 30 selected for ALSC’s Notable Children’s Recordings, is Marilyn Singer's A FULL MOON IS RISING, read by Robin Miles, James Lurie, et al. (Live Oak Media).

Please join us in congratulating Marilyn and Live Oak Media.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Neal Shusterman and Eric Elfman, authors of TESLA'S ATTIC, visit Nikola Tesla's last laboratory

Did you hear the one about the two mysterious Men in Black who wrote TESLA'S ATTIC (Hyperion) visiting Tesla's last lab. Read all about it here...

…or if the print is too small for you, visit Tesla Science Center. And to make one of the Men in Black slightly less mysterious, visit Balkin Buddies.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Benny Goodman & Teddy Wilson by Lesa-Cline Ransome and illustrated by James Ransome reviewed in Publishers Weekly

"In 1936, the Benny Goodman Trio became the first interracial band to perform in public, with Benny Goodman (the son of Jewish immigrants) on clarinet and African-American Teddy Wilson on piano (Gene Krupa, on drums, completed the trio). Writing in punchy free verse that echoes the bounce of both men’s music, Cline-Ransome traces Goodman and Wilson’s parallel—but separate—paths to jazz fame, before eventually meeting in 1935. Working in watercolor outlined in loose pencil, Ransome strongly evokes the allure of music that Goodman and Wilson both felt as boys, as well as way jazz all but demanded people get up and move: “The stage was hot/ The dancer floor was hotter/ The music was hottest.” Ages 8–12."

Friday, April 11, 2014

Benny Goodman & Teddy Wilson by Lesa-Cline Ransome and illustrated by James Ransome reviewed in Kirkus

Although Kirkus doesn't mention Common Core in its review of BENNY GOODMAN AND TEDDY WILSON: TAKING THE STAGE AS THE FIRST BLACK-AND-WHITE JAZZ BAND IN HISTORY (Holiday House), by Lesa Cline-Ransome and illustrated by James Ransome, it's clear this title could be used in both music and history units. Here is the Kirkus review:

“This married author-illustrator team (Light in the Darkness, 2013, etc.) here highlights the innovative, barrier-breaking collaboration of African-American Wilson and Jewish-American Goodman. Cline-Ransome's staccato verse narrative articulates the musicians' parallel paths to their eventual collaboration. She contrasts their backgrounds, describing dedicated musical training, early jazz influences and stints in various bands. (Wilson, the son of Tuskegee educators, studied music theory in college in Alabama, while Goodman got free synagogue music lessons and gigged around Chicago, quitting school at 14.) The two are introduced in Queens, N.Y., in 1935 and click during an impromptu jam. Benny forms a trio with Wilson and drummer Gene Krupa, overcoming—in April 1936 in Chicago—an initial reluctance to appear with Wilson, making them the first interracial band to perform in public. That same year, vibraphonist Lionel Hampton joins up, making it a quartet. Ransome's watercolors utilize a palette rich in twilight-blue, indigo and yellow, punctuated with sienna, red and green. In lively double-page spreads, he captures the band's dedication to practicing and recording together, as well as the verve and excitement of their live shows. Two pages of background notes include more about the musicians, a timeline of jazz events and a brief "Who's Who" of some of jazz's giants. A solid exploration of a resonant musical partnership at a historically significant moment in American music. (Informational picture book. 6-9)”

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Emily Arnold McCully's Little Ducks Go reviewed in Kirkus

How could you not like Emily Arnold McCully's LITTLE DUCKS GO (Holiday House) is Kirkus's conclusion in their recent review:

"This tale of duckling rescue has a surprisingly large cast for a 32-page picture book. There's mother duck and her six ducklings, of course. There's the boy who stops traffic when the mother duck runs across the street after the ducklings are washed down through a grating. There's the middle-aged man who shows up with a net to fish the baby ducklings out of the storm drain. There's a little red-haired girl—his daughter?—who holds the ducklings in a cardboard box as he drives the ducks to a nearby pond in his car. She waves to them as they swim safely away. Even a neighborhood dog stops by to provide moral support. Skeptics may roll their eyes at the idea that it takes a village to save a duck, but they will probably still be charmed by the pictures. It would be easy to believe that the energetic pen-and-watercolor illustrations were sketched from life as McCully followed ducks around her neighborhood. The story may seem too sweet to be true, even though it resembles a real-life incident in Montauk, N.Y., that was also the subject of Lucky Ducklings, by Eva Moore and illustrated by Nancy Carpenter (2013). Very few readers will remain unmoved as that mother duck runs from grating to grating, trying to catch a glimpse of her children; everyone loves a duck. (Early reader. 3-8)"

We couldn’t agree more.